Last night, President Obama delivered on of the most tepid state union speeches in recent memory. Obama's "winning the future" theme was exactly the right one. Unfortunately, very little of what he said will help us do that.
Obama should have held up the report from his own Deficit Commission. He should have told the American people that this is his program for moving forward. Then he should have turned around and handed it to John Boehner and asked him to pass it immediately.
Instead, we got a laundry list of disconnected new initiatives that just don't add up and won't do a thing to solve the looming fiscal crisis caused by too much government spending.
Here's the blow-by-blow analysis:
1.) Obama is calling for new "investments" on infrastructure. In this context, he's actually using the term "investment" correctly. Here's the problem: for years Democrats have called every bit of government spending "investments", including spending on transfer payments from one group to another. Only 6% of Obama's trillion dollar "stimulus" program was spent on real investments in our future. So, at this point it's difficult to trust what the Democrats say about this. Yes, we need to fix and upgrade our crumbling roads, bridges, ports, airports, water and sewage systems. But it has to be paid for by cutting subsidies and transfer payments.
2.) Obama mentioned China's "green energy" programs. Great! China is building the largest damn in the world. It's difficult to build a damn in the United States anymore because the extreme fringe of the environmental movement won't allow it. China has 30 nuclear power plants under construction. The last time the U.S. started a new nuclear power plant, Jimmy Carter was still president. Again, the extreme environmentalists won't allow it. Please tell us Mr. President, what specifically do you plan to do about your supporters, who have been blocking energy progress since the 1970s?
3.) Obama called for more "investments" in education. What he really means is more transfer payments to the teacher's unions who have destroyed our school system. No thanks. Been there, done that. Not a single dollar more at the local, state, or federal level should be spent on public schools until: A.) the teacher's unions are de-certified, B.) we abolish the entire notion of "tenure", which only serves to protect bad teachers, and C.) every school is taken away from the board of education bureaucrats and turned over to the parents who actually have kids in the school, i.e., every school is turned into a Charter school. Obama has claimed for years that he supports Charter Schools. It's time to put up or shut up. We're either going to truly reform one of the worst performing education systems in the developed world, or reconcile ourselves to becoming a second rate country.
4.) Obama called for building high speed rail lines in California and the Midwest. The last thing in the world we need is to waste money on a government run high speed rail system, which will cost a ton of money, almost no one will use, and will quickly degrade and stagnate like every other service the government tries to provide. A better answer to providing mass transit is to eliminate state and local laws which prevent private entities from competing to provide bus and other types of mass transit services. The Philippines have privately run mass transit systems, which do a great job at getting a lot of people where they need to go.
5.) Obama is right about the crazy organization of the federal government and all of the duplication across agencies. For example, the federal government has 72 welfare programs. They could all be collapsed into a single program that provides cash subsidies to the poor and disabled. We'd save a TON of money on administrative costs. A TON. Do you actually think that he will do anything like this? I don't.
6.) Obama called for a 5 year "spending freeze" on domestic discretionary spending. This won't even come close to balancing the budget. His freeze might reduce the deficit by $400 billion over the next 10 years, but deficits are projected to be $14 TRILLION dollars over the next 10 years, which will double the national debt to $28 trillion. His freeze amounts to less than 3% of the projected new debt. It's not enough to keep the country solvent.
7.) Obama is finally paying attention to the trade agreements with Columbia and Panama which have been languishing on the shelf for years. That's a good thing.
8.) He paid some lip service to tort reform to help reign in heath care costs. This is also a good thing, but I don't think he's serious given that Trial Lawyers are among the largest contributors to the Democrat Party.
9.) He also mentioned lowering the corporate tax rate, which is the highest in the world, and simplifying the tax code. This is the one recommendation from his deficit commission that he seems to be endorsing. It's a great idea and it should be done to help restore our competitiveness.
10.) Of course Obama had to throw some red meat to the fringe left by bashing oil companies and successful people. No surprise, but it is getting really, really old.
It's pretty obvious that Obama still doesn't understand that the country faces an almost insurmountable fiscal disaster caused by excessive government spending. Here are the two big questions: A.) Will the GOP actually do something about it? B.) If the GOP does do something about it, will Obama really go along? We'll see.